Pulling The Flag

Remaining Fixtures and Predictions – MEC

Day two, has us take a look at the unpredictable, yet predictable MEC conference.

As it stands, there are two teams still unbeaten, in the form of the Newcastle Blackhawks and Sheffield Giants. Somethings got to give. Who’s it likely to be?

MEC – North

Newcastle Blackhawks: 8-0

Remaining Fixtures: Leeds Samurai, Calderdale Knights, Darlington Steam, Nottingham Bears, Manchester Crows & Sheffield Giants.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Predicted Finish: 13-1 – MEC North – Champions

Comments: Newcastle should win their division at a canter, however claiming the North is not likely to be what is focusing them right now. A potential match-up against the Sheffield Giants, with both being undefeated is.

It could go the way of the Legion of Broon, but we still fancy the Giants at this stage and they need to watch out for those Crows too. Net points could be something the Blackhawks will be keeping an eye on as well, but more on that further down this thread.

Leeds Samurai: 4-4

Image courtesy of Ewan Miller

Remaining Fixtures: Newcastle Blackhawks, Calderdale Knights, Darlington Steam, Sheffield Giants, Cheshire Cavaliers & Nottingham Bears

Predicted Finish: 8-6 – MEC North – Runners Up

Comments: Does a winning record and playoff football beckon for the Samurai?

Already in a strong position, with a two game advantage over their nearest rivals the Darlington Steam, the Leeds outfit could already be thinking about the post season, but their run in is filled with potential banana skins and they will have to navigate the games with caution.

 

Darlington Steam: 2-6

Remaining Fixtures: Leeds Samurai, Newcastle Blackhawks, Calderdale Knights, Sheffield Vipers, Mansfield Honey Badgers & Manchester Titans

Image of Ewan Miller

Predicted Finish: 3-11 – MEC North – Third Place

Comments: Real progress for the Steam in their second year, bettering their total of one win in 2016 already this time around, with wins over the Calderdale Knights and Nottingham Bears.

They have an extremely tough run in, however based on the fact they have beaten the Knights already, we are tossing a coin and sticking with the Steam in the re-match.

If they stay on an upward curve in off season tournaments, 2018 could be a full steam ahead.

Calderdale Knights: 1-7

Remaining Fixtures: Newcastle Blackhawks, Leeds Samurai, Darlington Steam, Sheffield Vipers, Wigan Warhawks & Mansfield Honey Badgers.

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Predicted Finish: 2-12 – MEC North – Last Place

Comments: A tough season for the Knights, in a season where they have let a few numbers go out of choice. They are in somewhat of a transition period and maybe haven’t got the results that have reflected some good play. They always seem to be in games and very rarely get beat by more than a score or two.

As mentioned the Steam game, could go either way, but we fancy them to possibly grab a win over the Warhawks before the season is done.

Knights to improve for 2018!

MEC Central

Manchester Titans: 7-2

Remaining Fixtures: Cheshire Cavaliers, Manchester Crows, Wigan Warhawks, Darlington Steam, Mansfield Honey Badgers.

Predicted Finish: 10-4 – MEC Central – Champions

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Comments: The Manchester Titans are having a fantastic regular season. Their only losses thus far have come against the undefeated Blackhawks and Giants.

We foresee that impressive start to continue, however we can see a couple of blips along the way to an impressive division championship. This may elicit a reaction, though we could see their rivals the Crows taking a leg off them and another potential loss to the hands of a full squad of the Honey Badgers, if the Mansfield outfit are at it and need the win to survive a second tier drop.

Manchester Crows: 5-4

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester Titans, Cheshire Cavaliers, Wigan Warhawks, Newcastle Blackhawks & Nottingham Bears.

Predicted Finish: 9-5 – MEC Central – Runners Up

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Comments: The defining game of the run in for the Crows is, the Manchester derby versus the Titans. They got stung 45-40 in the first encounter. But the dirty birds know that if they have any ambition of stealing the title away from the them, it’s to go full tilt in that first game.

That being said, they win that game and games against the Cavaliers and Warhawks, they still need to win out, and it is in their favour, that their first game on their last game is against the Blackhawks.

The Crows come up just short in our opinion and a loss to the Sheffield Vipers earlier in the season, will likely give them the head-to-head for playoff placing too and with much tougher match-up as a result.

Cheshire Cavaliers: 3-6

Remaining Fixtures: Manchester Titans, Wigan Warhawks, Manchester Crows, Leeds Samurai & Sheffield Giants

Predicted Finish: 4-10 – MEC Central – Third Place

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Comments: A pretty tough run in to the end of the season, with what looks like a possible four out of five games coming against playoff bound opposition. The Cav’s have been mixing it up with some of the more established teams this year though, notably, their 20-6 win over the Mansfield Honey Badgers catching the eye.

If Sergio De Paco is on it, nobody will want to face off against him and in turn the Cavaliers when they’re hot!

Wigan Warhawks: 2-7

Remaining Fixtures: Cheshire Cavaliers, Manchester Titans, Manchester Crows, Calderdale Knights & Sheffield Vipers

Predicted Finish: 2-12 – MEC Central – Last Place

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Comments: It’s really hard to gauge how the Warhawks will do from here on in. The loss of Danny Caballero to the Coventry Cougars, coupled with the loss of both the Vernazza brothers, who have also both been rumored to have been seen on the Cougars roster, albeit without having played for them as of yet, leaves them short handed in skills positions.

That said, they did pick up a win courtesy of the Darlington Steam, but then equally confused us with a loss to the Nottingham Bears.

It maybe harsh, but we are not sure they will pick up another win this season. Hopefully we will stand corrected.

MEC South 

Sheffield Giants: 8-0

Remaining Fixtures: Sheffield Vipers, Nottingham Bears, Mansfield Honey Badgers, Leeds Samurai, Cheshire Cavaliers & Newcastle Blackhawks

Predicted Finish: 14-0 – MEC South – Champions

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Comments: The Giants still look the business in 2017. Supplemented by some new faces, they are in with a genuine shot at being national champions. Their biggest immediate blocker, highlighted earlier in the form of the Newcastle Blackhawks. Now, we are not sure if they will play the Blackhawks in their final fixture, or if it will be earlier in their last game day, but either way, we believe it will be for the right to be number one seed from the MEC, in an undefeated season.

Theirs and Newcastle’s next blocker is their right to host may come down to net points against the Glasgow Hornets. The same Hornets, who put up 100 points in one game against the Paisley Spartans and still have them to play again in a couple of weeks time. Darn!

Should they or Newcastle go undefeated, those numbers would take some beating!

Sheffield Vipers: 5-3

Remaining Fixtures: Mansfield Honey Badgers, Nottingham Bears, Sheffield Giants, Calderdale Knights, Wigan Warhawks & Darlington Steam

Predicted Finish: 9-5 – MEC South – Runners Up

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Comments: The Vipers are playing some very impressive ball. Losses to the imposing and undefeated Giants and Blackhawks are nothing to be ashamed of. Neither is a one point loss to one of the season success stories, the Manchester Titans. They only lost to the Blackhawks by a score too.

We see the Vipers picking up at least four more wins, with the real demanding fixture of relevance coming against the Mansfield Honey Badgers, which could go either way, especially if the Badgers have a full squad. But the Vipers squad is full of talent too.

Aggrrrhhh, which one to pick?

Mansfield Honey Badgers: 3-5

Remaining Fixtures: Sheffield Vipers, Nottingham Bears, Sheffield Giants, Darlington Steam, Manchester Titans & Calderdale Knights

Predicted Finish: 8-6 – MEC South – Third Place

Comments: The Badgers are such an enigma. They have quality to burn, but have been unexpectedly trending downward this season. Not having their first or second choice quarterbacks last time out hasn’t helped their cause either.

They find themselves in a bit of a conundrum now, realistically now having to run the table to make the playoffs and avoid the drop to the second tier. So we expect them to give it their all to make that happen. Although we could see them picking off two very strong Vipers and Titans teams, we feel that the Giants will beat them and leave them a game short and facing relegation in 2018.

Image courtesy of James Brewerton

Nottingham Bears: 2-6

Remaining Fixtures: Mansfield Honey Badgers, Sheffield Vipers, Sheffield Giants, Newcastle Blackhawks, Manchester Crows & Leeds Samurai

Predicted Finish: 2-12 – MEC South – Last Place

Comments: Two fine wins over the Cheshire Cavaliers and Wigan Warhawks have shown much anticipated progression from the Bears. The only downside is, they have to play five sure fire playoff bound teams and as previously mentioned the Mansfield Honey Badgers (if in fact our predictions pan out, either way, its either them or the Vipers) in the run in. Ouch!

Look for them to try and cause an upset and try and keep the Badgers in the second tier with them next year.

Image courtesy of Rob Connor

Predicted Playoff Placing: 1:Sheffield Giants (#2 Seed – First round bye), 2: Newcastle Blackhawks, 3: Manchester Titans, 4: Sheffield Vipers (Head-to-Head over the Manchester Crows), 5: Manchester Crows & 6: Leeds Samurai

So who’s your picks for 2017 Playoffs?

Check in with Pulling the Flag this week for more fixtures and predictions from across the league.

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